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Research Technician Fellowship

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Are you a high school or undergraduate student interested in experiencing scientific research and tree science?

Are you excited to learn new skills while getting paid?

Are you worried about applying because you don’t have any experience?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, this introductory internship is for you. Students with little or no experience are invited to participate in ongoing research at The Morton Arboretum, be mentored by our scientists, and see what it’s like to join a scientific research group. Experience careers that explore solutions for climate change, biodiversity, natural resources management, and urban life. Laboratory, computer, and outdoor field opportunities available.

To apply, individuals will complete the online application form; a resume and cover letter are not required. A brief true/false survey will be sent immediately to confirm interest, followed within one week by a required questionnaire to determine project interest and allow applicants to provide additional details.

Check back early spring 2023 for more information and an application link.

The Center for Tree Science’s Integrated Mentorship Program is committed to supporting students and professionals at every stage in their careers. As the Arboretum continues to grow a diverse and inclusive program, flexible work assignments and additional assistance may be available.

Individuals from schools and universities with limited research opportunities, groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM programs, first- and second-year undergraduates, persons with disabilities, and veterans currently enrolled in an undergraduate program are encouraged to apply.

Please contact ccarrier@mortonarb.org with any questions or to be notified when applications open for the next Research Technician Fellowship opportunity.

Fall 2022 Projects

Arboriculture Lab (part-time): The Arboriculture Lab at The Morton Arboretum researches biomechanics, the architecture of trees, and applied arboriculture, which focuses on the growth, maintenance, and function of urban landscape trees. The research investigates factors that predispose trees to storm damage and cultural practices to reduce susceptibility to storm damage. The student selected will gain hands-on skills and an understanding of what it’s like to work in a research lab and field sites. Interest in Environmental Science and a desire to learn new skills are preferred.  

Forest Ecology Lab (part-time): Trees are removed from the Arboretum’s Living Collections for a variety of reasons. Some trees are removed after damage due to pest and pathogen outbreaks, some die of natural causes, and some are removed to make room for new acquisitions or development. However, there is a lot that can be learned about a tree from its wood and rings.

With the help of the collections and arborist teams, the lab is collecting and storing cross-sections from removed trees so that trees grown at the Arboretum can continue to be studied after the tree has been removed from our grounds. After drying, samples need to be prepared by sanding so that they can be used to study a variety of topics including tree growth and climate sensitivity, quantitative wood anatomy, and isotopic analysis. The student selected will help with the preparation of samples in the woodshop and should be over 18 years of age, and comfortable using power tools and lifting objects up to 30 pounds.

Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab (part-time): The Morton Arboretum Herbarium houses more than 186,000 dried plant specimens and 17,000 lichens, many from Illinois and Missouri. Research being conducted in the Herbarium and Plant Systematics Lab focuses on the diversification and evolution of plant lineages. It employs the tools of molecular phylogenetics, phylogenomics, morphometrics, population genetics, and field ecology to address basic questions about patterns of plant biodiversity: How many species are there? How are they delimited and identified? How are they related and how strong are the barriers to gene flow between species?

The student will join the Morton Arboretum’s Herbarium and Plant Systematics Laboratory, assisting in aspects of specimen processing in the herbarium and various projects as needed. Activities in specimen processing may include collecting and pressing plants, label making/clean-up, mounting specimens, accessioning, data entry and/or proofreading, filing, and imaging. The student will obtain broad training in herbarium collection work while serving as an active member of the Herbarium and Systematics Laboratory. 

Tree Conservation Biology Lab (part-time): The Tree Conservation Biology Lab works with numerous threatened tree species, many of which are grown in botanic gardens or nurseries with the future purpose of being used in conservation and restoration. To be adaptable for the future, these seedlings must retain the genetic diversity of the species and have high genetic health and resilience.

In a recent project, the Lab used DNA analysis in several plant genera to try to determine the recommended minimum number of seed samples to preserve species diversity in botanic gardens. The investigation is now being broadened to many oak species to determine the variation in minimum sample size for preserving genetic diversity.

The student selected will be working on generating DNA data for one of these species, Q. tomentella, an IUCN red list threatened species that is only found on the four Channel Islands, off the coast of California. The student will develop precise hypotheses with the mentors, learn or refine their laboratory skills, extract DNA from plant tissue from hundreds of specimens, perform PCR, analyze DNA, and manage data.

Prior laboratory experience in some capacity is preferred, and experience or interest in molecular, cellular, or evolutionary biology, and conservation, is preferred. Coursework in genetics, as well as general biology and evolution, are recommended, though not required. The ability to handle delicate equipment, work with a high degree of precision and accuracy, take careful notes, ask questions, and perform repetitive tasks, is necessary.